10 Books to Read Before You Retire

Some people dream of retiring and living a jobless life. Others want to work until they fall over. No matter which camp you fall into, retirement planning is essential. If you’re like most people, you haven’t done too much thinking about your retirement years, because life is busy enough as it is. If you’re five or ten years away from retiring, it might seem like the distant future, but it’s going to come faster than you think. And unless your last name is Pennybags, you probably need all the help you can get. As usual, books are there for you. If you’re approaching retirement, these 10 books are essential reading, and will help you manage the mental and financial changes coming your way.

The Retirement Maze, by Robert Pascale
Pascale founded a successful market research firm and managed to retire relatively young. He fully expected to enjoy his retirement, but was puzzled to find himself bored and unhappy. He decided to use his research skills to delve into the problem, conducting rigorously-designed interviews with people both in person and online to determine what made some people so happy in retirement, and some so unhappy. People often don’t think about the massive life change that retirement represents, and ensuring you’re going to be happy during this period of your life is going to require that you start thinking different now.

The Five Years Before You Retire, by Emily Guy Birken
Far too many people defer thinking about their retirement until it’s upon them, passively hoping their 401ks and other investments will be enough, and that they’re prepared—somehow—in all the other ways too. But waiting until your co-workers are singing to you in the conference room is a recipe for a rude awakening. Birken’s book is ideal for folks who are a few years out—time enough to make some late-inning course corrections and mental adjustments, and even to rectify any mistakes you’ve already made. If you’re close enough to retirement to see it, this is the book to start with.

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, by Ernie J. Zelinski
Zelinski offers up nothing less than a guidebook to the exotic land known as retirement, where the customs are unexpected and the maps are nonexistent. Enjoying your retirement is about a lot more than money—although adjusting expectations to your financial situation is a necessity. This book offers up concrete exercises that will help you figure out what kind of retirement you want, what kind of retirement you can have, and how to be excited about the combination of the two. Instead of a lot of aphorisms and generic advice, Zelinski walks the reader through tools created to assist in retirement planning, adjustments, and challenges in an effort to insulate your retirement from unexpected challenges. A must-read whether your retirement is years away or already here.

Second Act Careers, by Nancy Collamer
For a lot of people, retirement doesn’t mean they stop working, it means they can finally work on what they are passionate about. If you’re thinking that your retirement will be your chance to pursue a dream, Collamer’s book offers a plethora of rock-solid advice on turning a passion into income. Finding a way to earn a little extra money while still enjoying your leisure years is a difficult tightrope to walk, and that makes a guide like this essential reading for anyone for whom retirement is going to be just a different way of working.

Home Sweet Anywhere, by Lynne Martin
If your retirement dreams include seeing the world but your retirement budget includes counting pennies, you might be prepared for a lot of disappointment. But there’s always a way. Martin and her husband aren’t rich, but in their mid-60s, they sold their home and almost everything they owned to embark on a retirement of travel and adventure, all recorded on their popular blog. This book walks through how they managed it, and is chock-full of their wisdom about money, travel on a budget, and retirement in general. If your dream for your golden years involves all those places you’ve always wanted to see but you haven’t won any lotteries lately, this book is both inspiration and practical guide.

The Memoir Project, by Marion Roach Smith
Retirement isn’t the end, it’s just a new chapter—and the life you’ve led is unique. One way to bring meaning to your experience is to organize it and write it down. In other words, write a memoir! If that seems like a daunting task, rest easy—this book is an excellent guide to writing a memoir for people who have never contemplated writing more than a letter. Eschewing standard writing prompts for an approach that will make sense to people who don’t consider themselves writers, this book will help anyone who suddenly find themselves with a lot of free time to create something out of their memories and experiences.

The Retiring Mind, by Robert P. Delamontagne
For every person who dreams of retirement and begins planning their world tour at age 35, there is someone who has devoted their life to putting their nose to the grindstone and overcoming every professional challenge. For folks who have been hard-charging their whole lives, the sudden calm of retirement can be daunting in a way work never was—and can result in real depression. Delamontagne offers real tools to determine your personality type and identify the specific mental challenges you may face in retirement, as well as ways to deal with them and overcome your own inner barriers to happiness in your retirement years. If retirement fills you with dread, this may be the book that saves your life.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
Backman’s delightful novel is the rare story where a retiree is not only the protagonist, his retirement is a key part of the story. Ove is a cranky, lonely widower forced into retirement. As a man who spent his life being useful (not to mention overly confident that his way of doing, well, everything was the right way), being jobless and alone is a difficult transition. Backman’s charming writing style doesn’t shy away from the mental and emotional challenges of retirement, and offers a gentle and entertaining story that will resonate with retirees of all stripes.

Start Late, Finish Rich, by David Bach
Okay, you just realized that you’re going to retire soon, and you haven’t prepared very well financially. You might think you’ll just have to move in with someone or live on the street, but Bach’s book can help you put together a workable nest egg for retirement, no matter how late you are to the game. Back points out that almost no one is ideally prepared for retirement, and more than a few people are woefully unprepared. He then offers up practical, step-by-step plans to rectify that situation, no matter your age or financial situation. If you think it’s too late to set up your retirement fund, this is the book that will change your mind, and show you the way forward.

Just Move!, by James P. Owen
For many, an exercise regime is tied to their working schedule—if they have one at all. Retirement sometimes means leisure and inactivity, which means that formerly fit people lose their way and folks who relied on their active work life to keep them fit start to become unhealthy. Owen, a former hard-driving Wall Street icon, discusses strategies for staying healthy at any age. Retirement is about more than money, and more than the mental adjustment—you have to find ways to keep physically fit as well, or your retirement will be less happy and your money will go much faster. When you’re planning your trips and living situation, plan for an exercise regiment that fits your retirement as well.

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